10 Christmas Traditions That Are Weird, Wacky, or Wonderful
Christmas traditions from around the world. Some are weird. Some are wacky. Some are wonderful. And some are all three!
Perhaps more than any other holiday, Christmas is a time of traditions. Many Christmas traditions are hundreds, even thousands of years old, handed down from generation to generation.
The Christmas traditions that we practice here in America are quite familiar to us. But if we were to venture out beyond our shores during the Christmas season, we'd come upon some traditions that, to us, might seem rather strange.
But though these traditions might seem weird or wacky to us, they're certainly not strange to the people that have been practicing them for generations untold. And in their own way, each of these weird and wacky traditions is also wonderful.
Well, except maybe for this first one…
- Krampus The Enforcer. In some parts of the world, Santa has sort of an evil alter ego. You might think of him as a Mr. Hyde counterpart to Santa's Dr. Jekyl. His name is Krampus. And while Santa gets kids to toe the line by rewarding good behavior, Krampus takes a different tact toward keeping kids in line. He punishes bad behavior. His appearance alone is probably enough to scare the bejeebers out of kids (adults, too!). He's tall and hairy. Walks about on cloven hoofs. Has a long, whip-like tail. Sports a pair of long, curved, dagger-sharp horns. He's not a guy you'd want to mess with. And if you're a kid that's been bad, legend has it that Krampus will hunt you down, toss you in a sack and tote you back to his lair, never to be heard from again. Though if you're lucky, Krampus might let you off with nothing more than a sound thrashing with tree branches. OK, interesting tradition. We'll definitely classify this one in the weird category. And we'll stick with the Santa tradition, thank you very much. (But we'll also keep our fingers crossed that Krampus doesn't happen to read this blog post!)
- No Cleaning on Christmas. In Norway, there's a long-standing tradition to not do any cleaning on Christmas Eve. That's because all the brooms of a household are hidden away. And why are the brooms hidden away? So that the witches that traditionally come out of hiding on Christmas Eve won't steal the brooms and, well, do what witches do with brooms. Yeah, we're going to have to classify this one in the weird category. It's not all bad, though. Any excuse to take a break from house cleaning…
- KFC! KFC! KFC! As traditions go, this one's a baby, only about 40 years old. But in that short time, this tradition has grown deep roots. And to add to the weird factor, this tradition got started from an advertising campaign - possibly the most successful ad campaign in history! Back in the 1970s, Kentucky Fried Chicken (now known as just KFC) was opening some franchises in Japan. They decided that they needed to do some advertising. Someone had noticed that Americans visiting Japan on Christmas often ended up eating at a KFC; it was the closest they could find to the American tradition of a Christmas turkey dinner. So KFC decided to have an advertising campaign designed to encourage a tradition of eating at KFC for Christmas. And boy, did that idea strike a chord with the Japanese people! That tradition took root and grew like wildfire. Today, the Japanese flock by the millions to their local KFCs for Christmas. In many cases, they make reservations months ahead of time and even wait for hours in lines that snake around blocks for their KFC Christmas dinner. By the way - to tweak the wackiness up a notch - a Santa-suit-wearing statue of Colonel Sanders often greets those millions of Japanese KFC Christmas customers! So we're going to place this one firmly in the wacky category. But this tradition's got a bit of wonder to it, too - finger-licking-good wonderful. (Sorry, couldn't resist!)
- Rollermass. In Caracas, Venezuela, it's traditional for people to go to mass early in the morning each day from December 16 through December 24. Nothing strange about that, you say? Indeed not. But what is rather strange is the mode of transportation that Caracas citizens traditionally utilize to get to the masses: They roller-skate. Early each morning during the season residents straps on their skates and zip to mass down the city sidewalks and streets (many of which are temporarily closed to cars). Along the way, if they happen to notice a string dangling out of a window, they'll give it a playful tug. Because it's also a tradition for children to tie a string to a big toe and drape it out the window when they go to bed. We're going to rate this one as a split between wacky and wonderful. And we have to wonder: Is this the only time of the year that many of the participants strap on roller skates? If so, there must be quite a rash of scraped knees and bruised backsides that accompany this tradition!
- Griswoldians. Who hasn’t laughed themselves silly watching Clark Griswold's Christmas decorating antics in the movie Holiday Vacation? Not many, because that movie itself has become a sort of holiday tradition. And that's why we're naming this next tradition in honor of Clark. It's the tradition of over-the-top home Christmas displays. It seems to be a growing tradition. There's even a TV show called "The Great Christmas Light Fight" that has families competing for recognition as having the most dramatic, awe-inspiring, over-the-top Christmas display. And every Christmas season you can read news stories about extreme Christmas Enthusiasts that have gone over-the-top with their displays. Last year's Champion Griswoldian would probably be the Richards family in Canberra, Australia. Their home was decorated with more than half a million bulbs - 31 miles of light lines! So how do we rate this tradition? Strictly wonderful. After all, we sell the bulbs that make those Griswoldian displays possible!
- Has Santa Been Naughty? On Christmas Eve, kids all around the world hope for a late-night visit from a chubby, white-bearded old man wearing a red suit. That's a long-standing tradition.
But it seems that over the centuries, quite a different tradition has evolved in Switzerland. It's called Klausjagan. Translated, that means, "chasing the Klaus." It involves townspeople marching through the streets, cracking 8-foot whips, blasting horns, and clanging cowbells - all directed toward harassing Santa. What on earth did Santa do to inspire such an annual uproar directed at him? If the people of Switzerland know, they're not telling. Guess that's between them and jolly old Saint Nick. But we're going to rate this tradition solidly in the Weird category. (And we can't help but wonder if the milk and cookies that Swiss kids leave for Santa are safe to consume!)
- Christmas Redux. If you're a kid in Italy, and you've been good, you're going to hit the jackpot this Christmas season. That's because good Italian kids get two visits from benevolent strangers bearing gifts. They get the traditional Christmas visit from Santa, just like the rest of the world. But then on January 5, another visitor makes the rounds of all the good kids in Italy, leaving the second deposit of toys and candy. Who is this visitor? Strangely enough, it's a witch by the name of La Befana. And if you're conjuring up an image something like the Good Witch of the North in The Wizard of Oz - sorry. La Befana is a witchy-looking witch in the traditional sense, all old and wrinkly and haggy. Even flies around on a broomstick. But in spite of her appearance, she's a kindly soul, just like Santa. Even the lumps of "coal" she leaves for bad kids are likely to just be coal-colored lumps of sugar. We're going to rate this one in the Wacky category and the Wonderful category. And thumbs-up to being a kid in Italy!
- Radish Radness. OK, radishes have their place in this world. They're perfectly fine in a nice salad, for example. But are these run-of-the-mill roots really deserving of being the focus of Christmas?
They think so in Mexico.
In the Oaxaca region of Mexico, each year on December 23 they have a Christmas-themed art festival called the Night of the Radishes. It's been going on for more than a hundred years. And by all accounts it's wildly popular, drawing tourists from around the world.
So what do they do at this Christmas festival? Carve radishes. They carve radishes of all types, large and small, into mostly Christmas-themed images.
With apologies to radish lovers (of whom there are apparently many!), we're going to have to rate this one solidly in the Weird category. We’re happy to munch on a radish in a nice Christmas dinner salad, but that's about all the attention we can spare the radish on Christmas!
- We Wish You a Webby Christmas. Tinsel, ornaments, lights - everything you need to decorate a Christmas tree, right? Wrong - if you live in Ukraine. Because in Ukraine, no Christmas tree is considered complete without a nice dressing of spider webs. A long-standing Ukrainian tradition holds that spider webs are a sign of good fortune for the coming year. According to legend, it all started with a poor widow woman, who long ago had to send her children to bed crying because there was no money for decorating the Christmas tree. But some sympathetic spiders overheard the crying of the heartbroken children, and overnight spun a fabulous latticework of light-reflecting webs to decorate the tree. And then the widow and her children enjoyed great good fortune for the rest of their lives. So now, it's considered good luck to have a Christmas tree draped with spider webs. We think most Americans would agree that this tradition belongs in the Weird category. In many American households, in fact, a big gnarly spider found in the Christmas tree might wreak nearly the havoc caused by the Christmas tree squirrel in the Clark Griswold household!
- Bored with Turkey? Are you stuck in a rut? Do you have the same-old, same-old dishes every Christmas dinner? Well, maybe you should try a wildly popular, traditional Christmas dish from Greenland. It's called "Kiviak." And it's really big in Greenland; just about everyone eats it on Christmas (or so we're told). Want the recipe? OK, here you go: Round up a bunch of auks (birds native to Greenland). Five hundred of them will do. Now find yourself a whole sealskin. Cram all of those auks - feathers, beaks, innards, and all - into the sealskin. Sew up the sealskin, and seal it with grease so that it's airtight. Now all you have to do is wait for the Kiviak to achieve gustatory perfection.
Proper Kiviak is well fermented, so you'll have to get started on this recipe early. It'll take a lot longer than thawing and roasting a Christmas turkey. But at least you'll be out of the Christmas turkey rut. We're going to rate this one in the Wacky category. And we're also going to add a Repulsive category just for Kiviak. Although, we're told that Kiviak has a very, umm, special flavor. And that when you burst open the sealskin on that slimy mass of fermenting birds, a particularly unique aroma wafts throughout the house. You can let us know about that, though. You have the recipe.
OK, Your Turn…
The Christmas traditions listed above are all large-scale traditions. Though some of them may be restricted to a relatively small region, millions of people participate in each of them.
But it's not at all unusual for individual families to have Christmas traditions that are unique; traditions that somehow started within a family, and stayed within a family.
How about your family? Do you have any weird, wacky, or wonderful Christmas traditions? Will you share it?
Who knows, if you share your tradition it might take hold, grow roots, and one day be honored with a mention in a blog post about weird, wacky, and wonderful Christmas traditions!